A family who paid £166 for Heathrow’s official ‘secure car park’ was horrified when vital parts were stolen – in effect, their Subaru was written off.
Oliver and Amy Clague had taken their one-year-old son Jack on holiday to Canada and parked it in Heathrow’s official long-stay car park, believing it would protect their vehicle.
The Bristol couple had not slept for more than 24 hours when they returned to find vital parts, including their catalytic converter, had been stolen.
On their return to the UK on 28 January, their car made a disturbing noise and when TV director Oliver checked under the bonnet, parts were missing.
It comes as at least 80 holidaymakers’ cars have reportedly been stolen after they paid up to £145 last month to park them at a meet-and-greet company at Heathrow Airport.
Oliver and Amy Clague had taken their one-year-old son Jack on holiday to Canada and parked it in Heathrow’s official long-stay car park.
Oliver and Amy Clague were in disbelief when they discovered their car had to be towed and potentially written off after their holiday
The Clagues had ‘paid extra’ to park in Heathrow’s official long-stay car park while in Canada.
They thought it would be ‘much safer’ for their car – but were shocked to find that theft ‘is common there’.
Oliver, who works as a TV director, said: ‘We were absolutely exhausted, we’d just got off the shuttle bus and I’d left my wife and son at the bus stop while I went to get the car.
“When I got in the car and started it, it made the loudest noise, so I called my friend who is a mechanic and asked him why the car would sound like this.
He told me to look under the front and check nothing is missing, I looked down and saw a pipe that is supposed to connect to something with a large opening.
“He told me people were going around stealing catalytic converters. I was in shock and disbelief when I went back to my wife and crying baby.
‘When I told her that part of our bike had been stolen, she couldn’t quite believe it either.
‘It just didn’t occur to me that my car wouldn’t be safe – the car park is branded on the website as safe and secure with 24/7 patrols.
‘We paid more to stay in Heathrow’s official secure car park, we care deeply about our car
The family pressed an emergency button at the bus stop to summon a parking attendant who “appeared unafraid” of the incident.
A catalytic converter costs on average between £150 and £800 in the UK and can be removed from a car with relative ease.
The family was told by the tow truck that he had seen this happen to other cars in the parking lot.
The family car, which the family paid £166 to park in a ‘secure’ car park, may have to be written off
When the family returned to the parking lot on Jan. 28, essential parts of the car had been roughly ripped away
The family’s luggage outside their car. Oliver Clague said if he had known parking problems were common he would have taken a taxi
The family car had to be towed from the parking lot after thieves stole essential parts under the hood
The car is now with the family’s insurance, which is measuring the damage.
However, Oliver said there’s a good chance they’ll write the car off because catalytic converters are so expensive to replace.
He said, “The whole thing is a shock to me.
“Fortunately we have good insurance, but there is a good chance that the insurance will write off the car, which is not an ideal outcome, as the money we get will not be enough for a new car.
“After it happened, I googled it and it was reported to have happened before. Had I known never to have parked there it would have been cheaper to take a taxi.
“The parking attendant told me that after the Covid layoffs they just couldn’t get the staff back. So there aren’t enough people to patrol all the cars there – it’s huge.’
The family pressed an emergency button at the bus stop to summon a parking attendant who ‘appeared unafraid’ of the incident
Oliver emailed Heathrow to notify them of the incident, but the airport initially refused to offer a refund
Oliver emailed Heathrow to inform them of the incident, but Heathrow said they ‘could not accept any liability and therefore could not offer any form of refund at this time’.
The family did eventually get their parking money back, but they feel they need to “warn others” about the problem.
Oliver added: ‘This all happened because we were trying to find the safest parking space. I want to warn people not to park there.
‘If Heathrow says they provide a secure valet service, why aren’t they responsible if part of my car is stolen?
It seems Heathrow doesn’t care and won’t help unless they have to. Even with a refund, £166 won’t help repair the car or deal with the stress of not having one at all.’
Heathrow has been contacted for comment.